“Everybody is entitled to a healthy relationship,” said DeKalb County Solicitor General Sherry Boston.
That is why she and Commissioner Larry Johnson are sponsoring a forum designed to teach parents and other adults the signs of teen dating violence.
“What we’re seeing now historically is an increase in domestic violence among young people,” Boston said.
“We describe domestic violence in many ways,” Boston said. “It’s more than just physical touching. It could be emotional. It could be financial. It could sexual. It could be violence via Facebook and social media and Twitter. This just doesn’t happen to married people or people with children who are older adults.”
Boston said this behavior among teen partners is happening as early as age 14, 15 and 16—“anytime you have young people that are starting to do the boyfriend-girlfriend thing.”
Boston said her office has had cases with teenage victims of simple assault, particularly when at least one partner is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“People get under the influence of these substances and tend to lash out,” Boston said.
Other teens have reported that “they’ve been harassed on Facebook or Twitter by verbal abuse or the dissemination of naked photos which we put into this teen dating violence issue,” Boston said.
“We have more and more teens coming to court to get protective orders,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teen dating violence is a serious problem in the United States that is often unreported.
Approximately 10 percent of students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months, according to recent statistics published by the CDC.
Among adult victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner, 22.4 percent of women and 15 percent of men first experienced some form of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17, according to the CDC.
Teen victims of dating violence are more likely to be depressed, perform poorly in school, engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, have eating disorders and commit suicide, according to the CDC.
In the forum, parents will be educated about some of the signs of teen dating violence.
“Everybody knows that if they see a bruise they’re going to ask about a bruise,” Boston said. “But there are also things which may not be physical.”
These other signs of teen dating violence include “stalking, or boyfriends or girlfriends that have a tight leash on each other by wanting to always know where they are, tracking them with the cell phone GPS, wanting to have passwords to access their emails or phone, sending threatening texts [and] Facebook issues.”
“Basically, it’s the same things that can happen to adults,” Boston said.
Boston said there have been several cases in the metro Atlanta area in which teen dating problems ended violently.
“We want to look for the signs before a death occurs,” Boston said.
The Teen Dating and Violence Advocacy forum, part of Johnson’s Leadership Institute, is scheduled for June 14, 10 -11:15 a.m., at the Exchange Park Intergenerational Center, 2771 Columbia Drive, Decatur.